Which Grains Are Good for Those With Type 2 Diabetes?

February 6, 2023

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Written by Xavier Toledo, BSc, Edited by Amy Brownstein, MS, RD

Despite what you may have heard, those with type 2 diabetes can absolutely enjoy whole grains. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) calls whole grains “superstar” foods for those with diabetes — and we agree.

If you read our previous post titled “Should You Eat Grains if You Have Type 2 Diabetes?,” you know that grains (specifically whole grains) offer countless health benefits.

So you’ve decided you want to incorporate whole grains into your diet — but where should you start? Below, we’ve assembled a list of some options you may want to consider. We’ve included their fiber content and glycemic index (GI) scores so that you can easily compare the effects of these various grains on blood sugar levels. Generally speaking, the higher the fiber content and lower the GI, the more beneficial the grain is for blood sugar management.


Brown Rice

Rice is a staple grain in many cultures throughout the world. Although white rice is much more prevalent for several reasons (such as the cost and preservability), brown rice — the whole grain form of rice — is the healthier alternative. White rice has gone through a refining process that strips away many of its nutrients, including most of its fiber. On the other hand, brown rice is mainly unprocessed, and its fiber remains intact — the reason we recommend it to our program members.

Fiber Content in Brown Rice:

  • Per 100g, cooked: 1.8g
  • Per 1 cup, cooked: 3.5g

Glycemic Index Score:



Oatmeal is a great grain to include in the diet. It’s a satiating breakfast option and has a good amount of fiber. It’s important to note that the less processed your oatmeal is, the better it is for blood sugar control. There are three types of oatmeal: instant, rolled, and steel-cut. Steel-cut oats are minimally processed and require longer cooking than more processed options such as instant oats. However, because they’re less processed, steel-cut oats take longer to digest and absorb — making them more favorable for blood sugar management.  Instant oats are heavily processed and often contain lots of sugar, two reasons why we advise avoiding them if possible. 

Fiber Content in Oatmeal:

  • Per 100g, cooked: 1.7g
  • Per 1 cup, cooked: 4g

Glycemic Index Score:



One whole grain that you may have heard of is wheat berries. Although wheat berries can be consumed in their whole form, they are more commonly cracked, parboiled, dried, and made into another form known as bulgur. This process makes bulgur one of the easiest and quickest grains to prepare at home. Bulgar is also extremely versatile. It can be incorporated into dishes such as tabbouleh or enjoyed on its own. Besides its convenience and versatility, bulgur is rich in fiber, magnesium, calcium, and other nutrients.

Fiber Content in Bulgur:

  • Per 100g, cooked: 4.5g
  • Per 1 cup, cooked: 8g

Glycemic Index Score:



Because the outer layer of barley is inedible, the grain goes through a hulling process to reach an edible form. So despite what the name implies, “hulled” barley is a whole grain that provides a significant amount of fiber and other nutrients. The more refined form of this grain is known as “pearled” barley, and it’s much more popular due to its quicker cook time. Despite this, hulled barley is a much more nutritious choice and offers better support for blood sugar management.

Fiber Content in Barley:

  • Per 100g, hulled, cooked: 17g
  • Per 1 cup, hulled, cooked: 32g

Glycemic Index Score: 



Although quinoa is technically a seed, many classify it as a whole grain due to its preparation method, texture, and nutrient profile. Not only is quinoa rich in fiber, but it’s also a complete protein, meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. This makes quinoa a wonderful protein source for those following a plant-based diet.

Fiber Content in Quinoa:

  • Per 100g, cooked: 2.8g
  • Per 1 cup, cooked: 5g

Glycemic Index Score: 



Many are surprised when they discover that popcorn is a whole grain. It’s loaded with fiber and is most nourishing when air-popped and lightly seasoned. Microwavable popcorn may be tempting for its convenience and flavor, but it's often loaded with oils, butter, and salt. Instead, consider investing in a simple air popper like this Amazon’s Choice option and seasoning your popcorn with nourishing toppings such as nutritional yeast, herbs, spices, and a sprinkle of sea salt.

Fiber Content in Popcorn:

  • Per 100g: 13g
  • Per 1 cup, popped: 1.15g

Glycemic Index Score: 

  • Plain, air-popped popcorn: 55



“Millet” is an all-encompassing term for several species of related grains. Filled with nutrients such as fiber, calcium, and essential amino acids, millet is often considered a powerhouse of a grain. Additionally, research has shown that this grain may play a favorable role in blood sugar management. A notable attribute of millet is how long it takes for the grain to empty from our stomach. Not only is this great for lasting fullness, but so too for preventing dramatic blood sugar spikes. Millet is also high in resistant starch, which is harder to digest than normal starch and can help lower the grain’s glucose-raising effect.

Fiber Content in Millet:

  • Per 100g: 11g

Glycemic Index Score:

  • Dehusked, soaked for 12 hours, stored moist for 24 hours, steamed for 1 hour: 68



Whole grains for type 2 diabetes

Although this is by no means an exhaustive list, we hope this helped get you thinking about how you can start incorporating whole grains into your diet.  Remember, when purchasing your grains, make sure to check the labels to ensure that they’re in their whole form (e.g., “hulled” barley rather than “pearled” barley).

If you’re interested in additional guidance on adding more grains to your diet, check out this post, where we share some easy recipe ideas!

Good grains for those with type 2 diabetes
Good grains for those with type 2 diabetes

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Leave a Comment

  1. Thomas Madonsela says:

    Thanks to read that about grains.
    Thomas Madonsela